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Much of Arkansas experiences driest May on record

Farmers and ranchers in Arkansas are feeling the effects of what the National Weather Service said Friday was the driest May on record for much of the state.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Farmers and ranchers in Arkansas are feeling the effects of what the National Weather Service said Friday was the driest May on record for much of the state.

Most of the state is classified as being in a moderate drought, with southern Arkansas slightly better off at simply "abnormally dry."

Meteorologist John Robinson of the weather service office in North Little Rock said a weather station south of Clinton recorded only 0.04 inches for the month of May. In all, 31 stations in Arkansas reported the driest May ever in their areas.

"It's great, if you are an iguana or horned toad," said Mike McClintock, Boone County extension agent for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

He said his office has been regularly fielding calls from ranchers looking for more hay.

"With each bite of grass, nothing is growing back," he said.

Farmers in the east Arkansas Delta held off on planting soybeans following the winter wheat harvest in hopes it would rain. Some in Prairie County got lucky Thursday, when a brief hailstorm was followed by a downpour. The storm also helped rice growers who were ready to flood their fields.

"The rain came fast and in sheets, but actually did soak up," Prairie County extension staff chair Brent Griffin said.

But the storm skipped most of the rest of the state, dropping the bulk of its moisture east of the Mississippi River.

Without rain, farmers growing row crops have had to fuel up their pumps and start piping water onto their fields. The extra expense has been particularly hard on cotton farmers, who aren't getting much for their crop right now.

Forecasters say the drought is likely to persist through August. Summer thunderstorms are hit and miss in Arkansas, and what farmers need is widespread heavy rain.

They are unlikely to get it. The weather service says the La Nina phenomenon that brings cooler than normal water to the equatorial Pacific Ocean is weak and thus won't generate hefty storms this summer, according to the Climate Prediction Center.

Along with a lack of rainfall, the center forecasts dominant high pressure over the region for most of the summer, which is expected to bring temperatures that are higher than normal.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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